Saturday, 26 March 2016

Frost Byte (Amiga) (For real this time)

Developer:JJ & DJA|Release Date:1988|Systems:Amiga, Atari ST, ZX Spectrum, CPC, C64

This week on Super Adventures, the long awaited 'screenshots and writing' part of my Frost Byte article! Only five years late.

It took me a while to figure out exactly what I was doing with this video game website of mine. I eventually realised that people are happier when there's a 'Read on' button they can click to satisfy their curiosity, but for the first few weeks I'd occasionally post a single title screen or screenshot I liked and then call it a day. So this grumpy cyclops has been staring out at people from my site with basically zero context since Feb 4th 2011.

But I can now reveal that this is a port of a 1986 ZX Spectrum game, brought to the Amiga by someone called J. Jameson. I could also make a joke about him being Spider-Man's bastard of a boss at the Daily Bugle, but I'm one 'J' short. They have the optimal number of 'J's to be porn star Jenna Jameson though.



And this is what the actual game looks like! Like a ZX Spectrum game redrawn by an Amiga programmer.

Okay I've got a TWANG meter, a box of pants, and the title written down the sides of the screen to make sure I don't forget. It could be in a window to help keep the frame rate up (it does seem pretty slick), but my guess is that if you took the border away it'd be the same resolution as a Speccy game.

I didn't crop the bottom of that ampersand by the way, you're not missing a row of pixels, that's just how it looks.

Oh, I'm playing as a tube? I honestly didn't see that coming. I was thinking I'd be... well, something to do with ice, maybe.

It's lucky that whoever put that cell there apparently forgot to lock it. It's also lucky I figured out that pulling down on the joystick picks up pencils and then loads them, otherwise I wouldn't be able to shoot these bouncing heads. Not that shooting them actually does anything, but I feel safer when I have a gun in my hand. Uh, head.

Ah there you go, I can shoot the wizards! I know he was a wizard because he was floating half a foot off the ground and he exploded into sparkles.

For my next trick I need to somehow get my tube under the bouncing head. It's a pretty narrow gap, but I have faith!

Yeah, that's never going to happen. He just doesn't hang in the air long enough for me to get though. I gave it a few more tries just to be sure, under the assumption that the game is longer than just one screen, but nope it's impossible.

ZX Spectrum
For reference, this is the original ZX Spectrum version of the first room. The wizard started out as a kind of shrimp! Or some other weird looking sea creature. He's not a bloke in a cloak, that much is certain.

This time it says 'SAVED' on the HUD, so I guess I'm supposed to be pulling a Cool Spot and rescuing all his little buddies from cells on the way out.

ZX Spectrum
Here's what the original title screen looks like by the way. The cyclops is looking a bit healthier here I reckon. He's got more of a gleam to him, and his teeth haven't gone green yet.

Right, I'm going back to the Amiga version now and giving this another try. I always knew I wasn't going to get anywhere in it, but I'm not giving up on the first screen.

What, I can just shoot him? But I couldn't shoot the other one! You saw me shooting his buddy earlier, it didn't work!

Man, there's nothing I hate more than inconsistently invulnerable bouncing heads. Now I can't tell if an enemy's killable or not without firing off some of my limited ammo at them.

There's no shooting these rain drops, so I really do need to time it right this time. I've learned that the game lets me restart on the same screen after a death though, which is good.

I've no idea how that astronaut managed to build this indoor igloo with all these drips and evil heads around. He must have had more patience than me, that's for sure. So much that he froze to death while admiring his work.

Alright, I need to get through on my next try or I'm out of lives.

Did it!

It took me another set of lives to manage it mind you, as I game over'd, but I got through in the end. There's no continues or passwords, and definitely no saves, so once I'm out of lives I'm sent right back to my cage. Which is bad.

It's worse on the ZX Spectrum game though, as I couldn't even make it past the first raindrop after like 15 tries. Speccy games, man.
 
And then I immediately got vanquished on the very next screen. I'm never going to survive long enough to run out of time at this rate.

Look at that tangled cyclops snake monster, he thinks this is all hilarious. I think I'm getting bored waiting for the proper title screen cyclops to show up.

By the way, I mentioned earlier that the Amiga version was programmed by a guy called J.Jameson. He's definitely not going to be played by J.K. Simmons in a movie any time soon, but you may have actually heard of the guy, as he's Jools from Sensible Software.

Cannon Fodder (Amiga)
He's the first soldier you get in Cannon Fodder!

Frost Byte was actually Jools' first Amiga game apparently, after he did a bunch of work on the C16. Oh I should mention that this screenshot is closer to what Amiga 500 games typically look like. Things got a lot better for the system when good pixel artists got involved and programmers figured out how to get the most out of the machine.

Ruff 'N' Tumble (Amiga)
This is running on the exact same hardware as Frost Byte, give or take 512 kb of RAM. The Amiga could never really beat consoles at their own game genres, but platformers certainly got a lot better when it tried to be a SNES instead of a Speccy.

I want to keep going with Frost Byte but I'm kind of hypnotised by this GIF now. I think I'll just sit here and stare at it for a minute.

Awesome, I was hoping those metal things would boost my jumps. I was kind of hoping not to explode on impact as well, but you can't have everything. It was probably my fault for screwing around instead of landing on it straight.

That air-slinky move is how I get around in the air by the way. This guy's not the most manoeuvrable platformer hero when airborne (or ever). I was trying to get over to that enticing amber Turrican gem, but I guess I started off too far to the right.

The enticing amber Turrican gem's given me super speed!

I was scared to eat it at first in case it replaced my weapon, but fortunately my firepower's intact. So I'll be able the blast the clown puke and clear my exit route. I'm just hoping the blue gem gives me a super jump or else I'm not sure I'll make it up there.

Oh that was so slick! I was born to be a gymnast gunfighter tube. It's just a shame it took me two deaths to pull it off.

Where are all these wizards trying to get to in such a hurry anyway? Wait, what am I thinking? They're stuck in a ZX Spectrum game! Of course they want to get out.

And now I've found my way out of this as well. Sorry Boot With An Eyeball In It, but it appears I won't be able to shoot you today after all.

It does seem like a shame that I'm going to miss out on seeing all the other weirdness in the game, but it's not. Because I'm not. The game cycles through all of its levels on the title screen, so if I just leave it going...

... I can go right through to the ending without pressing a button!

At least I'm assuming it's the final screen. It's got "WELL DONE" written on it so that's good enough for me.


CONCLUSION

I have to be honest, I was expecting Frost Byte to be absolutely terrible, but I kind of enjoyed it for what it is.

The visuals look a bit ass but they're very readable and I never really felt like it was the game's fault when I got my tube exploded. Also you get to play as a tube, and that's pretty... weird. Awkward too, but not as much as it might seem from my GIFs. The most annoying thing to me was that I couldn't shoot while moving because I couldn't be sure if the bullet would go forwards or straight up in the air.

Other than that it's a fairly typical 8-bit computer style platformer, with fairly typical weirdness, and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone really. But I don't regret giving it a try either.


No game next time I'm afraid, and if you check back in six days you'll understand why. I can't guarantee you'll be happy with what you see, but one thing I can promise is that there'll be a lot of words under a lot of pictures coming up. So many words.

Anyway, leave a comment if you feel like it! I consume your feedback to restore my lifeforce, plus it's also nice to read what other people think.

5 comments:

  1. Is that Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within?

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    Replies
    1. Yes it is. It's a shot of famous synthespian Aki Ross contemplating a weed.

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    2. Has it really been fifteen years since it came out? Crikey.

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    3. I'm interested to she where you're going with that.

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  2. You did it!! You reviewed that game!! And.... well maybe it's not as cool (pun intended) as that screenshot back there would have one guess. I had hoped for more fantasy ice giants vs Norse gods; I got the typical LSD platformer of ye olde days.

    No really look at those floating faces, those wriggling tubes, those little hooded guys. We don't do this kind of insanity in videogames anymore...

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